Let’s be honest with ourselves for a second. A vital part of our success as an agency is our individual nerdiness for ideas. Our yearning for new concepts, experiences, perspectives, and ways of life is a big part of what drives us forward. These ideas and perspectives a part of the fuel where creativity burns. We’ve all been told before that creativity doesn’t happen in a cubicle or a conference room. It’s the moments of everyday life and experiencing something new that triggers the spark. So whether or not we spend our free time actually learning about the science of advertising, our lives and experiences are constantly shaping our craft one way or another. As a company, we embrace and foster this culture through strengths and synergy. While some of us quite literally have ‘learner’ as a strength, we are all learners. It is our job to observe the world and process what we are experiencing so that we may provide value to others through the distillation of the art and science we call marketing.
If the world is so full of learners, why do we spend so much time learning from brands and not people?
One of our favorite internal Slack channels, The Watercooler, is a home where we share new ideas, innovative work from brands around the world, Star Wars memes, and an occasional Game of Thrones debate. When we take a step back and break it all down, though, a vast majority of the inspiration and content shared is the output of a brand or publication. It’s a pretty incredible thing, really. The fact that we so easily can see the new and trending ideas or ads from anywhere in the world is really powerful. There are entire businesses built around the idea of broadcasting creative websites, designs, illustrations or ads. It’s safe to say that we both as individuals and a culture are constantly inundated with content. Because of this, we’ve lost touch with reading and learning from actual people. When asked about our favorite brands, we can often answer with a dozen or so companies that we admire. Take that same question and ask who our favorite minds and thinkers in advertising are and we are often caught in silence. We have gotten so good at learning from third-hand sources, that we have forgotten that there are teams of individuals behind all the amazing content that we love. It is time that we shift our gaze a bit to further understand the people and perspectives behind the brands we love.
The best learning comes directly from the source.
Finding people to learn from is much easier than you think. Start by thinking of the brands you admire. What brands or products are you in love with? Do you already have an agency that you follow with an unmatched zeal? Is there a brand that seems to always find its way into the vault of your memory? Maybe it’s the tenacity of MINI or the raw strangeness of Skittles that you are so drawn to. Who is it that is behind all of this work? Do some digging and figure that out. The goal is to get just a bit beneath the surface and find the source of what inspires you. Get to a point where somebody can ask you who you follow in advertising, be able to answer in a heartbeat, and follow up with resources and places where learning dwells. Maybe it’s an underground blog by a creative director or a creative outlet by some foreign illustrator. Whatever it is, it needs to be a place where you can go to to learn directly from the source. If you think that you can learn a lot by following a brand or an agency, just imagine what you’ll find when you follow those actual people behind it all.
When you have people to learn from, you are never approaching a challenge alone.
Of the many colloquial phrases we toss around the agency, a common one during our brainstorming sessions is “it should never ever be your individual goal to have the best idea. It should always be your goal get to the best idea.” Meaning, advertising is not the job of any one woman or one man. Advertising is the cumulative thinking as a whole. Every team is comprised of unique individuals, each bringing something unique to the table. That includes our ideas, our strategy, and what we have learned. But when you have somebody that you follow and are inspired by, you are not showing up to the table alone. You are bringing the harmony of two people’s ideas and thinking. If you rely on your own thinking, you may get to a great idea at some point, but when you blend your unique thinking and strategy with that of another, the work you create will always exceed your expectations.
For those of you that are curious, I don’t have a personal favorite ad mind at the moment. It’s a goal of mine to figure that out. But I do have a favorite scientist. He happened to inspire this post with a single tweet.
Everyone should have a favorite scientist, whether or not it’s me.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) August 16, 2017